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Dorsey v. Ghosh

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 3, 2015

JAMES DORSEY (#R-03996), Plaintiff,


ANDREA R. WOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff James Dorsey, a prisoner of the State of Illinois who is imprisoned at the Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), has brought this lawsuit alleging that he received inadequate medical care while incarcerated, in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Dorsey has sued several members of Stateville's medical staff-Parthasarathi Ghosh, M.D., Latonya Williams, N.P., Imhotep Carter, M.D., Ronald Shafer, M.D., and Saleh Obaisi, M.D.-all of whom were employed by Defendant Wexford Health Sources Inc. ("Wexford, " and collectively with Ghosh, Williams, Carter, Shafer, and Obaisi, the "Wexford Defendants"). Dorsey also has named as defendants two former Wardens of Stateville, Marcus Hardy and Michael Lemke, as well as Stateville's current Warden, Tarry Williams ("Warden Williams, " and collectively with Lemke, Hardy, and the Wexford Defendants, "Defendants").

Hardy and Lemke have filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss Dorsey's claims against them ("Motion to Dismiss"). (Dkt. No. 63.) Also before the Court is Dorsey's motion to strike affirmative defenses asserted by the Wexford Defendants in their answer to the amended complaint ("Motion to Strike"). (Dkt. No. 65.) For the reasons set out below, the Motion to Dismiss is denied and the Motion to Strike is granted in part and denied in part.


On August 12, 2013, Dorsey filed this suit against Ghosh, Williams, Carter, and Shafer. In his initial pro se complaint, Dorsey alleged that those defendants denied him medical care and treatment in deliberate indifference to his serious medical need caused by a gunshot wound that he suffered in his youth. Dorsey filed an amended complaint through counsel on April 30, 2014. This amended complaint elaborated on the factual allegations in the original complaint, and also added claims against Obaisi, Wexford, Hardy, Lemke, and Warden Williams.

Specifically, in his amended complaint, [1] Dorsey alleges that he suffers from chronic pain in his right knee, ankle, and foot due to the gunshot wound. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15, Dkt. No. 34.) Dorsey also claims to suffer from chronic back pain; numbness in his chest, arms, and legs; pain in his groin and rectal area; and blood in his stool. ( Id. ) In 2006, while detained by the Cook County Department of Corrections, Dorsey was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine. ( Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) He further alleges that after being transferred to Stateville in October 2007, he complained about his maladies at various times to the Wexford Defendants, but those defendants did not prescribe him appropriate treatment "due to a custom and practice of prioritizing cost-cutting over inmates' medical needs." ( Id. ¶ 21.)

Dorsey alleges that Hardy was the head warden of Stateville from 2010 to 2013, and that Lemke served in the same position during the year 2013. ( Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) During the time periods when Hardy and Lemke served as head warden, they each were responsible for the operation of Stateville and the welfare of all inmates there, and their job duties included oversight of medical staff operations. ( Id. ) Dorsey further alleges, on information and belief, that during their respective tenures as warden, Hardy and Lemke oversaw daily operations in Stateville's Health Care Unit; signed off on permits, grievances and grievance officer responses; approved outpatient furloughs; and otherwise were personally involved with medical decisions. ( Id. ¶ 49.) Dorsey further alleges, again on information and belief, that the contract between the Illinois Department of Corrections and Wexford subjects all decisions concerning outpatient medical treatment to the approval of prison officials, including Hardy and Lemke when they served as warden. ( Id. ¶ 50.)

Between March 2010 and September 2012, Dorsey submitted a number of grievances to Hardy regarding the inadequate health care he claims to have received from the Wexford Defendants. Hardy reviewed these grievances. ( Id. ¶¶ 23, 26, 35.) In these grievances, Dorsey complained of pain in his lower back and right leg, reported continuing lack of medical treatment, and requested various medical treatments. ( Id. ) Dorsey does not describe Hardy's response to each of these grievances in his complaint, but he does allege that Hardy concurred with and signed a grievance officer's recommendations of "no action" in response to the grievances dated July 17, 2011, October 4, 2011, and October 21, 2011. ( Id. ¶¶ 30 n.1, 32 n.2, 35.) Similarly, Dorsey alleges that he submitted a number of grievances regarding his medical care dated between July 13, 2013 and November 2, 2013, and that Lemke reviewed these grievances. ( Id. ¶¶ 42, 43, 45.) Dorsey further alleges that Lemke concurred with and signed a grievance officer's recommendations of "no action" in response to Dorsey's grievances dated July 13, 2013 and August 7, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 43.) Finally, Dorsey alleges that, although Lemke reviewed and signed a grievance dated November 2, 2013, Dorsey received no response. ( Id. ¶ 45.)

In response to the amended complaint, Hardy and Lemke filed the Motion to Dismiss, while the Wexford Defendants jointly filed an answer. (Dkt. No. 55.) The Wexford Defendants' answer asserted four purported affirmative defenses: (1) that the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (2) that "[t]o the extent plaintiff may be seeking relief from this defendant in his alleged official capacity, this claim should be dismissed as to the extent this defendant, as an official of the state, is immune;" (3) that Dorsey failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; and (4) that Dorsey's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. In his Motion to Strike, Dorsey seeks to strike each of these affirmative defenses.


I. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain a short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, this short plain statement must overcome two hurdles. First, the complaint's factual allegations must give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Second, the complaint must contain sufficient allegations based on more than speculation to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. This pleading standard does not necessarily require a complaint to contain "detailed factual allegations." Id. (citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)). Rather, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

Dorsey claims that Defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against "[e]very person, who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Since a § 1983 cause of action must be against a "person, " in order "[t]o recover damages under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that a defendant was personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right." Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d 579, 583 (7th Cir. 2006) (overruled on other grounds in Hill v. Tangherlini, 724 F.3d 965 (7th Cir. 2013)). Individuals may be held liable under § 1983 if they caused or participated in the alleged constitutional deprivation. Flowers v. Velasco, No. 00 C 1708, 2000 WL 1644362, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2000) (citing Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996)). However, a § 1983 action is predicated on fault and requires that a defendant be personally involved in some way to be held liable. Pepper v. Vill. of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2005). The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to actions filed under § 1983. Kinslow v. Pullara, 538 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2008). Rather, to be held liable for the actions or omissions of their subordinates, supervisors "must know about the [unconstitutional] conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see." T.E. v. Grindle, 599 F.3d 583, 588 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992 (7th Cir. 1988)).

In the Motion to Dismiss, Dorsey and Lemke argue that, as non-medical prison officials, they cannot be held liable for Dorsey's medical care. It is true that generally speaking "[p]rison directors and wardens are entitled to relegate to the prison's medical staff the provision of good medical care.'" Gevas v. Mitchell, 492 Fed.Appx. 654, 660 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009)). However, the Seventh Circuit has recognized that a prison official may be held liable for deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs-even when that prisoner is under medical supervision-where that prison official has "a reason to believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors ...

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